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Tobacco tax increase targets smokeless products

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:32 p.m. HST, Feb 24, 2012

A loophole in Hawaii’s tobacco tax law makes smokeless tobacco products and “little cigars” cost-friendlier alternatives to cigarettes.

As a result, increased tobacco taxes only impact smoking rates, but have not led to any significant decreases in the use of chewing tobacco, snuff and tobacco sticks and pellets.

A bill headed to the Senate floor could change that.

State Sen. David Ige, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said on Friday that a proposal to raise the excise tax on all tobacco products to 70 percent or $3.20 each, would close the loophole.

Senate Bill 2422 would also ensure that the little cigars, which are often flavored, are taxed at the same rate as the cigarettes they resemble, said Ige, D-Aiea-Pearl City.

The bill would also raise the cost of “roll your own” tobacco.

Health Department statistics on the cigarette tax indicate that for every 10 percent increase on price, there is a 3 to 4 percent decrease in consumption — 6 to 8 percent for youth.

The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii gave the measure strong support, pointing out that it would have the most impact on new tobacco users.

“Adolescents and young adults are two to three times more sensitive to tobacco price changes than adults — when price increases, less youth will begin to start using smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products and more will reduce their consumption,” noted the Coalition’s Executive Director Deborah Zysman, in testimony to the committee.

According to Zysman, smokeless tobacco is linked to cancers of the esophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach and pancreas. It also contributes to gum and cardiovascular diseases.

The American Heart Association offered the committee information about nicotine, which causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and flow of blood from the heart. “Users of smokeless tobacco are exposed to levels of nicotine that are comparable to cigarette smokers,” said government relations and Mission:Lifeline Director Donald Weisman.

Products like little cigars and roll-your-own tobacco lead to the same health problems and diseases as cigarette smoking, he added.

The state Department of Health weighed in at another committee hearing on Feb. 13.

Health Director Loretta Fuddy said smoking and tobacco use are Hawaii and the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and illness, resulting in more than 1,100 resident deaths each year, and costing more than $640 million in health care and lost productivity.

“Tobacco products not (Food and Drug Administration) approved to help smokers quit are addictive and dangerous whether smoked, chewed or dissolved,” she said.

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1local wrote:
Provide free smokeless cigarettes to smokers - this will result in less tobacco being purchased...
on February 24,2012 | 05:48AM
mijlive wrote:
just another money grab under the lie of "it is for your own good".
on February 24,2012 | 06:04AM
mcc wrote:
Why not ban tobacco? It is more harmful than marijuana.
on February 24,2012 | 07:04AM
thevisitor967 wrote:
And how much mkoney is spent for fat people who get diabetes, heart disease, etc.? All this tax will do is cause smokers to buy cigarettes off the internet. Tax free.
on February 24,2012 | 07:24AM
Macadamiamac wrote:
Fascist smoke Nazi or Big Brother? Enough already! Fix the DOE, roads, sewers, over fishing, over population. Do something constructive instead of raising more taxes.
on February 24,2012 | 08:39AM
808Cindy wrote:
(tobacco-related illness and death cost the state $640 million a year). Wow, so that's where our tax money is going to, SMOKERS wrong behavior!
on February 24,2012 | 08:41AM
lfb489 wrote:
Perhaps they should raise taxes on liquor also, maybe that might help the drunk drivers situation. Are there are too many politician who are drunks?
on February 24,2012 | 08:59AM
nigelUV001 wrote:
I used to smoke. I used to like getting 2 cartons of marlboro lights each time I went to Costco's. My wife however hated that I would add $100 to the bill. We used to spend around $200 and with my cigarettes the cost would be like $300. I started to hate it too. I went on Chantix and used the smokeles electical ciggaretes and was able to quit in 4 months. I no longer smoke, and am breathing better. The only thing is that I gained 20 pounds, but I feel healthier. I no longer have the hacking cough, thick mucos and the feeling that I am breathing thru a tissue paper, or two tissue papers on the "vog" days". I support increasing the cost of tobacco.
on February 24,2012 | 09:16AM
walrus808 wrote:
Why is it always the ex-smokers are more obnoxious than the rabid anti-smoking crowd? How's about this, let's leave each other alone and accept the consequences of our choices as they come like responsible adults. So tired of the nanny state, and every activist who encourages it, telling me what I can and cannot put in my body. They're usually the same people that say hands of women's bodies when it comes to abortion. I don't care if you are pro choice, that's your God given right; but if you support hands off on any issue, you should support hands off on ALL issues. Let people be to choose their own path, maybe we could start instilling a little personal responsibility back into our society by doing so!
on February 24,2012 | 12:01PM
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